Women are leading the way in internationally to contend with the pandemic, but are at risk of unemployment in the workplace and spending more time in the family without compensation. What can we do to achieve true gender equality?
- "Hey, can you hear me?"
- "Hey, are you talking?"
- "Can you let me know in the chat room that you can hear me?"
- "Are the other partners in the office with you?" I don't see them on the screen."
Have you ever said or heard any of the above in the past two years when you joined an online meeting?
These are the dialogues that many people have often heard in the past two years. In the past two years, our work model has changed rapidly in the face of the epidemic, and we have begun to move from a 100% office work form to a distance, home, or hybrid work model in order to combat the epidemic and keep a distance from people.
The boundaries between work and life are gradually beginning to blur, and we who work from afar or from home have a lot of uncertainty about when to press the rest button.
Women, on the other hand, are a group of people who move more carefully on this line.
PwC Taiwan disclosed in the 2021 Global Women's Work Index Report that under the pandemic, the unemployment rate for women in 24 OECD countries was 3% higher than in 2019. One reason can be attributed to the pre-existing gender inequality in society: women mostly work in service industries that require human contact, the sudden outbreak has caused a shift in work patterns, and women have no choice but to leave the workplace when faced with the option of not having the option to work from home (PwC, 2021; “How Covid-19”, 2021）。
Or maybe the traditional thinking is still there. In the dilemma of choosing between career or family caused by the epidemic, most women need to assume the position of unpaid childcare. The Zicheng (2021) study also provides data to prove that women spend an average of much more time per week on unpaid childcare than men by 7.7 hours per week.
The 7.7 hours of childcare is equivalent to two full jobs for women who do not need to leave the workplace and work from home (PwC, 2021). With the pandemic, schools shutting down, and many childcare settings closed, children who have nowhere to go have become colleagues of home-based parents.
In the context of working from home, perhaps according to the old method, the burden falls on the woman, and the mother comes.
Female leaders have kept up with the pandemic, but unemployment and hours of family care have climbed
Outside the home, in turbulent times, you might also admit that it's women who raise their hands to prop up half the sky.
For example, places that performed well in the early stages of the outbreak, such as Taiwan, Finland, New Zealand, and Germany, were led by women, whose over-deployment also led to lower mortality rates (Henley, 2020). The development of a COVID-19 vaccine is also led by women (O'Donnell, 2021).
Finnish Prime Minister Marin (first from left), former Belgian Prime Minister Wilmes (center), European Commission President von der Leyen (second from right) and former German Chancellor Angela Merkel (first from right) at the European Summit. Photo| Tatsushi Images/Associated Press
It seems that women are rising, but if you look closely, you will find that there are still many deficiencies that need to be made up.
Let's leave the pandemic for a moment, look up at the sky, take a good breath and breathe, and think about the ubiquitous climate issues.
At the climate summit in Glasgow late last year, you can clearly see from the press photos that it is young women who are walking on the street protesting, while it is men who sit at the round table with decision-making power (Sengupta, 2021).
In the face of this situation, Somini Sengupta, an international climate change reporter for The New York Times, mentioned that climate change and disasters mostly affect low-income groups and women who have children to raise. Without their voices and no one thinking about their situation, how can we solve the climate problem at all?
Calm down and think, most of the countries in the world are male leaders, where have women gone? And gender equality in the workplace, which is already slowly advancing, has taken a few steps back due to the disruption of the epidemic, how to solve the fundamental problem?
And women's biggest collateral damage to disasters is not out of thin air.
According to the study data, the groups most affected by COVID-19 are: women who are mothers of young children, female groups, and then male groups (Lofton, Petrosky-Nadeau, Seitelman, & Federal Reserve Bank of San Franciso, 2021; Mckinsey & Company, 2021）。
Perhaps you are familiar with the following scenarios, and you will understand the origin of the data:
- Your female boss holds the child in one hand while videotaping you.
- Or halfway through the video conference, you'll see small hands and heads that also want to participate in the meeting swaying next to female colleagues.
- Or a temporary card call meeting, because the female partner or supervisor has to take care of the elderly in the family.
- Or occasionally, on a whim, children shut down the video conversations their mothers are having.
- Or in the middle of a meeting, the female colleague needs to leave her seat because there is an unexpected situation in the home that needs to be dealt with.
A few seconds or minutes later, you'll see the other person's polite smile in the reopened shot, say sorry, and the meeting will go on again.
International Women's Day: Zicheng and Micron invite women to carry out the "Self-Care" exercise
Some companies see the anxiety and uneasiness behind these shots. On International Women's Day in 2021, different companies organized events related to women's mental health to raise awareness of the topic:
- Zicheng (2021) held activities and lectures related to parent-child and positive thinking.
- Micron (2021) Women Leaders Community and Employee Benefits Team held activities related to "relaxation" and "self-care" in Taiwan.
They see the pressure and trepidation of women multitasking during the pandemic, and they offer a direction and a way to talk about mental health freely.
You may wonder why the mental health-related activities on International Women's Day are held because society's assumptions about women's responsibilities in the workplace and at home show signs of deepening in the epidemic.
No one said it explicitly, no one discussed it, some companies, some people rolled up their sleeves and rolled up their sleeves. Given the tools, still not enough to cure the root cause. Governments and businesses should also think about how to uproot discrimination, prejudice and some things that are taken for granted against women in order to eliminate the consequences.
Diversity and inclusion are more equitable, so let's rethink the issue of gender equality together
European and American companies have been ahead of the curve on the road of "inclusion". The death of George Freud in May 2020 sparked anti-racist demonstrations of "Black Lives Matter" in the United States and around the world, and catalyzed businesses to re-examine racial issues and reconsider the importance of "diversity and inclusion" (Silverstein, 2021; Boden, 2020）。
The concept of diversity and inclusion first appeared in the 1960s as "diversity education" to end racial discrimination (Love, 2020). Over time, the tentacles gradually extended to gender, nationality, age and other diverse elements. In the process, companies also began to think about the differences between groups and the need for fair resources and the importance of creating a workplace environment with a sense of belonging.
Gradually, "diversity" has been added to "inclusion", and in the process, more "fairness" has been added, and some companies have added "sense of belonging", and these concepts have also been quantified, becoming the direction of enterprises to a friendly workplace.
But at the same time, because of an epidemic, we have once again found that women, as a vulnerable group, are still the first to take risks and bear losses, so there are signs of regression in gender.
It took the world more than a decade to strike some balance between men and women, but it took only two years to watch the pandemic rattle the crumbling foundation of "gender equality".
However, people who care about gender equality and women's empowerment still go hard.